Parents Playing Financial Favorites

“It’s not fair!”

A lot of siblings are treated differently by their parents, and the reason is simple: people are human. They say and do stupid things from time to time because they’re not perfect little computers (even perfect little computers crash and get viruses). 

Now, I’m sure when your kids ask you, “Who do you love more?,” you just look perplexed and say that you love them in different ways.  You tell them, “How can I love one more,” and then go through the litany of “I love your kindness” or “I like that you play soccer, but I also like that she plays basketball,” etc.  You try to say that love is not quantifiable and that you love them for all the unique things they each are.

But in real life, it doesn’t work out that way.  Parents often either show more attention to the kid who is easier to get along with, or they end up giving more attention to the kid who’s a pain in the butt because they’re trying to straighten them out.  That happens a lot.  At birth, some little babies are cuddly and some are colicky.  You’re going to feel a little more relaxed and bonded to the kid who is cuddly.

There are so many subtle things that influence parents, especially when giving money to their kids.  Financial favoritism causes a lot of family discord.   And if there are secrets involved, things can explode. 

There have been so many times I’ve had a competent, confident, healthy individual call into the show who is doing well in life but is really upset because time, effort, and money are being given to their loser sibling.  And I’ve had to explain time and again the sad reality: “You?  They’re just grateful you’re doing fine.  They don’t have to worry about you.  They’re worried about the other one, and that’s why they keep throwing fuel into the fire – to try and get the other one straightened out so they can be like you.” It’s really difficult to work hard your whole life to achieve a good lifestyle to find out that your irresponsible sibling is getting supported all the way along.  It seems unfair. Your parents are constantly throwing good money at the bad kid, trying to fix his or her ways, and their handouts only create dependency.  Why shouldn’t the ne’er-do-well have to go out and make it work on his or her own? 

You’ve heard me so many times (I hope) on the program saying to parents, “Let them go.  What’s going to happen?  They’ll have to figure it out.”  And then they respond back, “But they’ll hit bottom!  They’ll be miserable!  They might live on the street!  They might live in their car!  They might live with their friends!  They might shack up!  They might…” 

But do you know what?  They will work it out.  They’ll figure it out if you’re out of the equation.

Now, of course, parents can do whatever they darn well want to do with their money -they can give it away, they can spend it…whatever.  But you parents ought to remember that when you show favoritism after death with money, you’re going to leave behind you a big problem in the family.  The kidlets are not going to get along.  They’re going to be angry with each other.  So it’s good, before death, to sit down with your kids and clarify what your intentions are and why.  You need to talk it out because if there’s a sibling who is reasonably irresponsible, the good kids are really going to be ticked off that they have to share equally with somebody who they feel hasn’t earned that position.

It’s natural to want to fix things for your kids.  Nevertheless, you should carefully consider how your decisions will impact the relationship you have with each different child and the relationships they have with each other.  It can really put a bomb in the family.

My advice is this: die poor.  Do it like the pharaohs and bury it all with you.  That way nobody can fight over it because it’s all six feet under with you. 

…But even then somebody will dig it up.  You know that, right?